Valley flu cases jump in February but still mild compared to last year

Local News

Flu numbers are on the rise across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But how many people are getting the flu in the Youngstown area?

Walgreens sent out an email Thursday morning, saying flu activity is high around Boardman and Youngstown. The company gathers this information by looking at prescription data for antiviral medications used to treat the flu.

Flu activity continues to be widespread in Ohio but data from the state department of health shows the number of influenza-related hospitalizations in Ohio were below average throughout winter.

Then, activity increased during the first two weeks of February. Statistics through February 9 show a significant increase in our region.

However, the Mahoning County Board of Health said it’s mild compared to the last flu season.

“So far this year, through week six, we’ve had 74 reported hospitalized cases, ten of those being pediatric. The same comparison last year from 2017 to 2018, we were at 289 cases and 32 of those were pediatric cases,” said Director of Nursing Erica Horner.

The most influenza hospitalizations during the first two weeks of February happened in Mahoning County, with 63. In Trumbull County, there were 53 and in Columbiana County, there were 22.

Horner said a big reason numbers are lower this season is because the flu shot has been more effective.

“Last year, it was significantly lower, the effectiveness of the vaccine for what the virus was circulating last year. Whereas this year, the CDC’s reporting that the vaccine effectiveness is around 47 percent for what is circulating.”

The CDC says there have been 34 pediatric deaths from influenza across the U.S. this season. In Ohio, there has been one.

Horner said you’ll still want to monitor your kids closely.

“You would definitely want to keep in contact with your health care provider if your child has flu-like symptoms. If they develop dehydration, if their temperature goes to 104.”

The best way to protect yourself? Get a flu shot — which is still available — and wash your hands.

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